Saturday, December 03, 2005

How Green Thou Art

On a snowy ride today, I was reminded of an old Maynard Hershon article: "How Green Thou Art." I must have first read it years ago in a Bridgestone catalog when I was researching the purchase of my first mountain bike. I say "must have" because I honestly don't remember it at all. Nevertheless, in those days not a page escaped my eye.

I happened to read it again a couple of years ago. It is a provocative piece. For those without time to read it (you really ought to; it's short), the point of interest is that only bicycle trips that replace car trips are truly "green." We kid ourselves when we ride for fun or drive to trailheads or fly to tours and then look smugly down on non-cyclists. I mostly agree. Bicycles do many things well, but surely their greatest potential lies in efficient, sustainable transportation.

I would add to Hershon's point that--once car trips are replaced--any further transportation on a bike is essentially costless, both to the cycler and to society. Rachel and I do not drive, and our quality of life is at least as high as when we did. Therefore, we can say that we have mostly replaced our 8,000 car miles per year with bike miles. But, would we be meaningfully improving anything at this point by trying to keep our bike miles under 8,000? No! Most would agree with Hershon that driving less is imposing fewer costs on society. Few would agree that biking less does so.

In many ways, the bicycle fulfills the empty promise of the automobile: transportation independence. Year round bicycling is the rugged individualism car ads pretend about. Bicycling is alternative energy. Hershon says it best: "Riding bikes does no harm."

Text of the article is available on Sheldon's site here. More good Maynard here.

2 Comments:

Blogger fixedgear said...

You might like Maynard Hershorn page.

7:19 PM  
Blogger TG said...

whenever i am considering a trip, be it a longer trip to the parents or just a trip to the store, i always think about how funny/odd it is that the act of transporting a body from one place to another ends up costing money. pedaling is the only thing that makes it "free"

6:46 AM  

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